Playfield Institute

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Anger

About anger

 

Anger is a very common emotion that everyone experiences at times. If a child or young person feels angry this is not a problem in itself. However, it is important that children and young people learn to express their anger constructively.

 

If anger is ignored it can build up inside and may lead to them expressing it in disruptive behaviour or turning their frustration on themselves and those around them. Expressions of anger can range from mild irritation to full-blown rages, verbal outbursts and physical violence.  


Things to think about

 

Feeling angry at times is as natural as feeling happy or sad. However we often see anger as a bad thing and we may even be scared of it, because of its occasional explosive nature.

 

Children and young people experience anger for the same reasons that adults do, for example, when they are stressed, frustrated, or feel that something is unfair. They may have been annoyed by something that just happened and are reacting to it immediately. They could also be feeling angry about things that happened in the past, and may be carrying a lot of bottled up anger around with them.

 

In trying to understand why a child or young person may be feeling angry, it is helpful to think about specific situations that may be causing them stress, for example:

 

  • Are they struggling at school?
  • Are they being bullied? 
  • Are there any issues at home?
  • Has there been significant change, loss or bereavement? 
  • Are they unable to express themselves verbally? Anger can occur in children or young people who have difficulty in expressing their views or feelings in words.


Think about your response

 

Anger is something that we have all experienced at some time in our lives.  Everyone knows what it feels like to be angry or to experience someone else’s anger, and your experiences will affect your response to a child or young person who is angry. It is important to be aware of your own feelings and experiences so that you can respond helpfully to the child or young person. 


What you can do

 

When they are angry

 

  • Lead by example by remaining calm.  

 

  • When calming them down, be assertive but do not shout or lose your own temper. Instead, show them that you can handle their angry feelings without becoming aggressive yourself.

 

  • Reassure them that you understand how they are feeling.

 

  • Explain the situation to them. A child or young person may be feeling angry because they are feeling a lack of control, ignored or disrespected.

 

  • Offer them choices to try to defuse the situation. This can be as simple as, "We'll have to complete this task but how do you think we should approach it?" or "Do you want to get some air and come back to this in a few minutes?". This makes them feel more in control and increases their sense of fairness and confidence, without allowing them to have their own way. 

 

  • Sometimes using humour can help distract and calm the child or young person, but be careful not to embarrass them or make them feel that you are not taking them seriously.

 

  • It can be more difficult for them to back down if they fear losing the respect of friends. If they are not calming down, encourage them to go somewhere private or ask others to give you space so you can talk to the young person on their own. 

 

  • If the child or young person is very angry or has lost their temper, and this is causing danger to themselves or others, it may be necessary to remove them from the situation. This should always be done with the child or young person's safety in mind, as well as your own.


This video gives tips to help with anger:

 

When they are calm

 

  • Explain to the child or young person that anger is a normal emotion and everybody feel angry at times.  

 

  • Encourage them to talk about their feelings and help them explore their anger so that you can both try to understand what’s making them angry. This can help them feel less frustrated and also shows them that you understand. 

 

  • Try to identify what triggers their anger. Once you have identified the triggers and the reasons behind their anger, you can help them to develop different ways of coping and dealing with these situations. 

 

  • Help them to control their anger or express it in more positive ways. Praise and encourage them to notice situations in which they have handled their anger well or have expressed it effectively and calmly. This will build confidence, reduce frustration and will make it more likely that they will repeat the positive behaviour.

 

  • Talk to them about being respectfully assertive when they disagree with someone else’s opinion or behaviour. Role-playing in different situations can be a useful learning experience, and can be done one-to-one or with a group. 

 

  • Give the child or young person other ways of reducing tension, for example exercise or relaxation.

 

  • When in a difficult situation yourself, remember to stay calm and show them that anger is manageable and can be dealt with.


What not to do

 

  • Don’t lose your own temper, as this shows the child or young person that this behaviour is ok, and it prevents you from responding helpfully.

 

  • Don’t get into arguments, as the child or young person may become more frustrated and angry if they're losing the argument.

 

  • Don’t make fun of them, as this is likely to make them feel humiliated and more frustrated and angry.

 

  • Don’t use physical restraint, except to protect the child or young person or others from serious harm.


Who to contact if you're still concerned

 

For parents and carers

 

Please contact your health visitor, school, GP or other professional involved with your family.

 

For professionals

 

Please consult with other professionals involved or the named person, and to help identify the most appropriate support, go to: www.nhsfife.org/choosingtherightsupport